Industrial production systems, speed and the strong competitiveness of wood construction are the key success factors in Swedish wood construction. According to Niclas Svensson, Director of Träbyggnadkansli which promotes wood construction in Sweden, industrial production solutions and systems have made Swedish wood construction very competitive, and have lifted its share of multi-storey apartment building construction to 20%. ”In addition to the wood as a material, an industrial production system that produces light, eco-friendly and renewable building materials at a competitive prices has also been essential,” explains Svensson. As a driver of the growth of wood construction, Svensson sees the local government sector, whose social housing production represents half of all Swedish apartment building construction.
Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, is currently conducting several programmes aimed at the development of the construction business. ”Tekes’ interest in being involved in the development of the wood construction business is to find diversity for building, says Reijo Kangas, Director of Real Estate and Construction Industries. The common denominators of these programmes are energy-efficiency, ecology and services enabled by digital information technology. According to Kangas, Tekes is aiming to grasp the systemic change currently underway in construction, and to promote the access to markets of new innovations and construction service production.
The preparation of the RunkoPES industrial standard, a harmonised measurement and jointing system for industrial prefabricated wood construction initiated by the wood products industry is on the home straight and ready to be used by those interested in doing so. Up to now, the lack of a harmonised system has been a barrier to the development of industrial wood construction. ”This removes a significant deficiency from the industry, now that we finally have a harmonised standard,” says Mikko Viljakainen, Managing Director of Puuinfo. Markku Karjalainen, Development Manager of the Wood Construction Programme at the Ministry of Employment and the Economy believes that the open standard will accelerate the breakthrough of industrial wood construction.
According to Professor Matti Kairi of Aalto University, in Europe there have been positive experiences about the health effects of wood construction. Wood is seen as part of good resident-centred architecture and living environments. ”Wood is considered aesthetically beautiful and calming, at its best a material that is beneficial to care work,” says Kairi. The impact of wood and forests on the human mind has been researched surprisingly extensively in different parts of the world. Japan and Norway have done thorough research, according to which it can be said that wood has a positive psychological effect. Architecturally harmonious solutions, a restful palette of colours, a pleasant living environment and wood as a building material stimulate aesthetic pleasure, increase the feeling of calmness and thus make people feel good.
Seven kilometres from the centre of Tampere, a new small town for 13,000 residents called Vuores will be built. The City of Tampere has set an ambitious target for the project - to carry out future construction by combining high-quality architecture, ecological building, a sense of unity, high technology and proximity to nature. The Vuores project will include a small modern district of 4,000 inhabitants called Isokuusi.
Aalto University, the Ministry of Employment and the City of Espoo are working together to develop wood construction. The aim is to combine science, technology, design and architecture with the energy-efficient construction of the future.
The Minister of the Environment, Mr Ville Niinistö, who is in charge of Finland’s climate policy, considers it necessary that new, more material efficient and energy efficient solutions are found in construction. Using concrete in construction has a large carbon footprint in terms of natural resource consumption and is coming to the end of its path, says Niinistö. Bearing in mind climate goals, the construction industry, too, must move on to low-emission materials. Niinistö sees wood building as a good example of the possibilities in the green economy and a step towards sustainable consumption. Increasing building with wood has significant influence not only on reaching the climate goals, but also on product development, export and employment. Finland has a chance to showcase wood building as one of its expertise areas in urban planning and to thus promote its export in the field of construction know-how, says Minister Ville Niinistö.
The Association of Wood Product Industry in Finland (Puutuoteteollisuus) joined forces with The Confederation of Finnish Construction Industries RT (Rakennusteollisuus RT ry) in January. The Managing Director of the Association, Mr Mikko Viljakainen, stresses that the construction industry is currently going through a time of transition. EU regulations, together with national ones, climate change, and requirements for improved energy and material efficiency all pose new challenges for future building.- We do not imagine the new regulations will be based on terms set by wood alone, but we see it as important that wood has a role in them, as an ecological, renewable material, says Viljakainen.
Combining architecture and design with modern, environmentally friendly and energy efficient building is emerging as the main theme of Finnish wood building. –We are known for our forests, architecture and high-quality design, and we could now combine all those in wood building, says Mr. Sixten Sunabacka, Director of the Strategic Programme for the Forest Sector under the Ministry of the Employment and the Economy. Wood building may well take the lead role in the renewal of our forest sector. Modern wood building and wood products have the potential to create concrete images for Finns of the many possibilities of our renewable natural resource. These images may then be expanded into other wood fibre materials such as intelligent packaging and various composites including wood. This development also enables totally new kinds of production and service operations.
The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra is a public fund that reports directly to the Finnish Parliament. Sitra funds projects that seek new operation models and promote business aiming at sustainable well-being. Sitra has adopted a key role in the development of energy efficient and sustainable building in Finland. - Sitra is a co-operator in promoting and carrying out projects that are able to show that a major change in building is possible, explains Jukka Noponen, Director of Sitra’s Energy Programme. Sitra is involved in demo projects and plays a part in developing new building regulations that promote sustainable building. Noponen believes that the time has come to talk about a wide-ranging sustainability thinking, covering material efficiency, energy use as well as our living environment and way of life.

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